A Brief History of Taxis


The taxicab is staple of modern city life – but where did this ubiquitous vehicle get its start? Long before the invention of the automobile, horse-drawn cabs for hire started appearing in Paris and London in the early 1600s. Bulky and difficult to maneuver, they were replaced by the more nimble hansom cab in the mid 19th century; these horse-drawn carriages were smaller and lighter than previous vehicles for hire, and also featured the first mechanisms to measure distance and calculate fare owed.

These mechanisms, called taximeters, started the popular nickname “taxi,” which today is synonymous with a vehicle for hire in several locations across the globe. Taxis spread from their birthplace in London to the rest of the world very quickly, becoming especially popular in New York City.


With the invention and development of the gasoline-powered automobile came the spread of taxicabs into the automotive world, first developed by Gottlieb Daimler of Daimler-Chrysler fame. These vehicles proliferated into city streets in the early 20th century, finding a home very quickly in places where they had previously flourished – in New York City, for instance, where they were painted the iconic bright yellow color they still have today.

How radio revolutionized taxis

The popularization of radio became one of the next major installments in the life of the taxicab, enabling transportation centers to coordinate and dispatch taxicabs with ease and immediacy. This use of two-way radio became an integral part for any cab driver and their host company, developing the taxicub from a relatively individual enterprise to one much more organized and industrialized.


The taxicab has come up against one of the first serious challenges to its position in culture recently, as individuals with smartphone apps have started to be able to perform the same services as taxis for lower rates. Several cities worldwide are seeing taxi drivers revolt against Uber and similar apps that are designed to spread out the market once held entirely by cabs, their dispatchers, and their drivers, and some places are hard pressed to evolve and maintain their income in this changing environment.

Whatever the future holds for the taxicab, the ride for hire has earned its place in the history of major cities around the world, becoming a constant piece of the scenery from Asia to Europe to the Americas and Africa. The taxicab’s long history is still being written, and its form in modern society is still being formed, take a look at the latest in wheelchair accessible taxis to see just how far taxis have come.

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